Curse of the Electronic Nanny

WOW, DID IT EVER FEEL GREAT to get back on the track again! One hundred and thirty-seven of my fellow enthusiasts attacked Mosport (CTMP) with a vengeance in early July and had a great time doing it. It was the first event where we attempted to include a student group. Our Chief Instructors Andy Wright and Peter Carroll spent many hours working out a lead-follow format that would work. It involved learning the material from the US, watching videos, adapting formats, having Zoom meetings for clarification, and organizing pairs of cars. They must have done a great job because all of the feedback was positive. We know it’s still not an ideal situation with the green drivers still being left out, but their time is coming. We’re looking forward to a full program next year starting with our IDS program in April.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the efforts and contributions of the instructors. Normally they would be riding with the yellow run group, but those events are still a few months away. Every instructor donated their fuel, tires, brakes, and wear and tear on their personal car in order to drive in tandem with their assigned student. I want to thank each and every one of them for giving the yellow drivers the opportunity to participate. They really make this all possible.

We were very fortunate in several ways. Surrounded by two weeks of rain, both Saturday, July 10 and Sunday, July 11 were warm and dry with a cooling breeze. The track was clean and had lots of grip. The paddock was full of smiling and socially distanced people that weekend. Once again, the track team did a seamless job of hosting the event and even the food was pretty good — for a race track! It looks like all the time I spent rolling around under the car in a puddle of oil was worth it too. I ran all eight sessions and the car ran flawlessly. It ended up being parked near Belleville overnight after I tried to chuck a trailer tire at the guy behind me. It wouldn’t be a complete weekend if I didn’t break something.

Now that we are tracking again, I have a couple of reminders for everyone. The first is that CTMP does not want any of us to arrive before 5:30 p.m. on Friday evening. If you want to stay over or just drop your trailer and go, they don’t want you there before 5:30 p.m. To be fair they have to protect the integrity of whoever rented the track on Friday. We wouldn’t like it if another group started moving in while our belongings were lying around, so we have to respect others. The other thing is that we need you to put a four-inch set of numbers on the back of your car. It’s very difficult to see the numbers on your doors once you have passed by, so that’s the reason for them. The simplest way to do that is to purchase a license plate cover and have your local sign shop cover it with your car colour and place your numbers on that. Then when you go to the track you can have your numbers on the back and cover your licence plate at the same time.

I’m often asked about what to expect when attending a UCR DE and my response often sounds a little cryptic. I usually say that their experience will be exactly what they want it to be.

I’m often asked about what to expect when attending a UCR DE and my response often sounds a little cryptic. I usually say that their experience will be exactly what they want it to be. Let me clarify. There aren’t just five different levels, identified by five different run groups. There are also people who participate for different reasons. The participant that most people imagine is that of a dedicated trackie, who’s a want-to-be racer, and spends every minute of their time trying to gain hundredths of a second. Like Formula 1 without the budget. There are drivers who are trying to improve on their personal best, but we don’t do timing and there is no trophy at the end. We also have drivers who are satisfied with spirited driving and enjoy the opportunity to drive as fast as they want, in a social environment. They can be found in the paddock surrounded by other lawn chairs and like-minded friends. They haven’t thrown their upholstery in the dumpster to save weight and they aren’t covered in motor oil. DE has room for everyone who likes cars regardless of your motivation. It’s fun and educational for everyone.

I think everyone is aware of the current computer-chip shortage in the world. While from time to time I rant about all the electronic nannies being stuffed into our cars, the current production issues are highlighting a real future problem.

Manufacturers are adding electronics to things that frankly don’t need them. My fridge doesn’t need to monitor when my milk carton is almost empty because it was me who drank it. My toothbrush doesn’t need to time each side of my mouth. I know when I’m cheating because the damn phone is ringing. My rearview mirror doesn’t need to monitor my blind zones, because it just teaches me not to turn my head and maintain my own spatial awareness. That clever mirror will be of no help if I have to make a split-second decision to go right or left in an emergency.

While all sectors of the electronics manufacturers are affected in some minor ways, most are able to still produce their latest and greatest products. It’s the more obsolete products with older platforms that are suffering. The reason is that the chip producers are spending their money supporting the manufacture of their newest designs, not the existing ones. What does that say about the automotive sector? Well it says that they are adding new gimmicks to their already existing platforms, not spending development money on the latest and greatest toys from scratch.

What does that mean for the automotive consumer? First off, it means that the largest manufacturing companies are going to suffer the longest, before the supply-line issues can be resolved. It also means that most of the electronics in your shiny new car are built on older platforms. Those platforms will not only be obsolete in 10 years, but most of your gizmos will not be repairable. Your long-term resale value will suffer from all that crap. Try and sell your used car with a broken eight-track that can stop the engine from running! Good times ahead. See you trackside! </>

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